How we select papers

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 43, No. 8, October 2001, Page 432 Editorials

Several people have asked me recently how the BCMJ decides what to print each month. My quick response usually is that it is not really a very formal process, we just print them as we get them. However, after thinking about it a bit I realized a couple of things. First, the process is really more formal and selective than that. Second, the question needs an answer with a broader brush stroke. Finally, if there are quite a few people asking the question it is probably a good excuse to write an editorial.

We haven’t actually got around to counting the number of unsolicited vs solicited articles we print in a year, but my guess is that it is likely about 70:30 (unsolicited:solicited). I don’t think the BCMJ is different than any other medical/scientific journal in that we expect to receive a fairly steady stream of articles for review. Most of these are of quite high quality and we are able to help keep you educated, informed, and (we hope) entertained from a fairly large, skilled, and highly motivated wellspring of BC authors. There are periods, however, when the steady stream of articles slows down to a trickle. When this happens, editors are people you probably would like to avoid, as they get wide-eyed, tend to gnash their teeth loudly in public, and respond to pleasantries with grunts and Anglo-Saxonisms. I have learned over the years that in order to avoid this I need to be an article pimp and go to great lengths to solicit articles whenever I am at meetings, dinners, symposia, weddings, and funerals. Unfortunately, now when colleagues see me coming they begin to sprint en masse for the nearest exit.

Our managing editor is also very adept at finding potentially interesting topics in his own reading, and in his own quiet way is able to convince me to write letters to various authors and ask them for an article. In so doing he makes me look exceptionally smart and deserves a huge raise. The other thing we do is to brainstorm at editorial board meetings and come up with ideas for theme issues. The BCMJ prints three or four theme issues a year and they are invariably well received by readers. These issues require an enormous amount of work by the guest editors, the reviewers, and the editorial staff at the BCMJ, but the result is always worth it.

One of the BCMJ editorial board’s primary tasks is to read and review all submissions the journal receives. We select papers for printing based on their clinical and scientific merit, relevance to BC doctors, and the quality of the writing. Almost every accepted submission is sent back to the author for at least minor revisions (and sometimes for major overhauls), suggesting that we’re a pretty thorough bunch.

Finally, the actual decision-making as far as the content in each issue is the domain of the managing editor (occasionally in concert with me). He decides what articles fit best together in any issue and works with the graphic artists for the cover design and layout of the rest of the journal. He also coordinates the editorial staff to ensure that the rest of the multitudes of minutiae are taken care of before the thing is sent to the printer.  

There, I think that covers most of it. However, in the future I think if anyone else asks me the same question I will just give them this.


James A. Wilson, MD. How we select papers. BCMJ, Vol. 43, No. 8, October, 2001, Page(s) 432 - Editorials.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

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